Sharing the Pain

DSCN3624I’ve been recording lunch-time observations of bicyclist behavior in downtown Orlando (maybe a better term is “people on bicycles”).  A few days ago I brought my camera along.

These photos of illegal and unsafe bicycling behavior were shot in a little over a half-hour in a one-block stretch of Central Blvd. in downtown Orlando, and represent less than half of the violations I observed.   Seeing a law-abiding roadway cyclist here is a rare event.

Go to Flickr for the photostream. Be sure to check out the titles and captions for some humor to soften the blow.

20 replies
  1. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I’m trying to help Mighk gather some statistics as well.

    On my commute, I’m actually only in the downtown area for less than 10 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon. So I’m only seeing a few cyclists, and only at early and late times of the day, and for only a fraction of their ride — sometimes I don’t see them long enough to see if they stop at a red light on their path. Still ……..

    Right now the red-light running percentage is almost 44%.

    Sidewalk riding is 66%.

    Riding properly …. 10%

    The scariest rider I saw was a female who was on Rosalind. She’d swerve in and out of the bike lane — swerving into empty areas where cars park, swerving out to bike lane to go around parked cars. Crash waiting to happen …..

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    Funny captions, but sad photos and depressing stats.

    “The scariest rider I saw was a female who was on Rosalind…”

    That’s a very common behavior on Edgewater Dr. They try to ride as close to the curb as possible and swerve around the parked cars in their path.

  3. Kitzzy
    Kitzzy says:

    I did not know riding on a sidewalk was illegal. I thought I read somewhere that if you ride on the road, follow traffic laws. If you ride on the sidewalk, follow pedestrian laws and give pedestrians the right away.

  4. Keri
    Keri says:


    It’s against city ordinance in Orlando.

    It’s legal at the state level exactly as you described, but many cities have local laws against it to protect pedestrians in downtown areas.

  5. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    While a number of jurisdictions prohibit sidewalk cycling in central business districts, Orlando’s prohibition is citywide. It has been on the books since the late 1960s.

    “Giving pedestrians the right-of-way” is problematic. Coming head-on a cyclist can stop, move to the side, and let the pedestrian(s) pass, but how does a cyclist who wishes to pass a pedestrian on a narrow sidewalk — or two or three people walking abreast on a wider sidewalk — yield right-of-way? Realistically it is the pedestrian who must yield in order for the cyclist to pass.

    BTW, one does not “have” or “take” the right-of-way; one only YIELDS the right-of-way.

  6. acline
    acline says:

    I’ve published two videos this year of bicyclists at 4-way stops in Springfield. It’s a real eye-opener. But the frustrating thing is: What can be done about so many people riding like children?

    Education? We’re trying.

    Set a good example? Everyday.

    Enforcement? The police here don’t care (due to very real problems with staffing and the budget).

    I’ve always thought, and still believe, that it’s mostly a matter of time and experience. I rode like a child when I first started using my bicycle as basic transportation. I finally got it. Others will, too, I suppose. But two things seem to be making this natural process work slowly:

    1. The increasing number of new utility cyclists (anecdotal evidence) who see many other that look like themselves also riding like children.

    2. Roadies and other sport cyclists who just can’t be bothered with mundane things such as traffic rules.

    The second one really hurts. If you’re new to utility cycling, I imagine you might consider the roadie in his/her colorful costume and on his/her expensive racing bike to be the imagine of proper cycling.


  7. Keri
    Keri says:

    I think changing this requires the same paradigm shift needed for civility. The core issue is a culture that doesn’t see/respect bicycles as vehicles.

    Legally, bicycles are defined as vehicles, culturally they are regarded as toys. That lack of cultural legitimacy is behind the bad behavior because people on bicycles don’t view themselves as vehicle drivers. It’s behind bad behavior by motorists because people in cars believe only motorized vehicles belong on the road.

    A lot of people think bad motorist behavior is a result of bad cyclist behavior (because motorists like to use that as an excuse), but the reality is, they both spring directly from the same well. Both parties make excuses for their own bad behavior by pointing fingers at the other… just like children. Both parties actually behave the way they do because our culture car-centric.

  8. rodney
    rodney says:

    I’ve seen more and more “people on bikes” lately too. Kinda good, kinda frustrating at the same time. Gutter bunnies, Bike Ninjas, and just plain folks on bikes.

    There should be more to it than “get on your bikes and ride”. Perhaps, the LBS can offer a rider course along with each bike purchase. Kinda like the ones the ATV manufacturers give.

    Some days I feel like its all fruitless and just choose to NOT say anything to the “people on bikes”.

  9. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    “Education” is not really the issue. I’ve found that most people know the rules; they just choose to violate them because A) they have their own reasons (i.e. “I think riding with traffic is stupid; I want to see the cars coming.”), and B) nobody enforces it.

    “Training” is needed more than “education.” Education just gives them the facts; effective Training internalizes it. And enforcement addresses those who refuse training.

  10. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    “Education” is not really the issue.” -Mighk

    No adult is ignorant of traffic rules. They are also licensed automobile operators, after all. This fact alone explains why children riding in a childish manner are far more likely to be killed in traffic than adults riding like children. Adults can “read” the traffic pattern better and compensate somewhat.

    Describing bicycling in a childish manner as dangerous is not effective at changing behavior, for the simple reason that it is not!

    Many scofflaw cyclists have vast amounts of experience with no real harm befalling them. Our admonition to them that it is full of danger is scoffed at, and rightly so. The statistics bear them out on this: Bad cycling behavior is generally less risky than many other everyday activities. (Integrating with traffic and following the traffic rules is magnitudes safer, often faster, and a lot less stressful, demanding far less mental resources.)

    Therefore, I think that a demand for civility in the commons, that benefits all who travel there, (Pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles.) will be a shorter route stopping the carnage.

    I think everyone here recognizes that many in each of those listed categories is in need of training, as Mighk defined it, not education.

  11. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    Rodney says:

    “There should be more to it than “get on your bikes and ride”.”

    As long as the VCers keep insisting that there is more to it, bike ridership will remain low. The public, motorists, police and politicians have to just let it go, and let people ride however they might.

    More rules = less riders.

  12. rodney
    rodney says:

    Bryan says:

    “More rules = less riders.” Ok then, let’s toss out the rules, rape and pillage the townsfolk….men, women, children, and small animals.

    No Rules = MORE fun! Let’s just keep the idea of being tolerant of others. Keep allowing no accountability and just be a hazard to ourselves and others.

    VC is just a tool. If your gonna play in the game, you have to know the rules. Unless you’re the type that likes to take the soccer field and start throwing the ball.

  13. rodney
    rodney says:

    Here’s the point I trying to make. Sorry for going on a tangent.

    At Fred Oswald stated:

    “A more responsible way to encourage cycling is to teach cyclists how to do it properly. This will enhance the safety, the effectiveness and the enjoyment of cycling. People taught properly will want to do it more.”

  14. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    So rules take all the fun out of cycling.

    Tennis has rules. Lots of people enjoy that.
    Card games…
    Gee, even driving a car has rules, and lots of people seem to enjoy that, too.

    And cycling unfortunately requires some skills, too. I’m sure some people are put off by having to learn those, too.

    Whatever are we to do?

  15. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    Say Bryan, your premise seems to be that “more butts on bikes” is such a good thing, that it should be done at nearly any cost.

    On top of that, your statement implies that it is onerous rules, especially those who promote traffic integration, is a barrier to popularizing cycling. Is that right? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

    I look around at those who are not cyclists in my community, and I don’t think there is much that will get them onto a bicycle. They simply find no pleasure in it. (How weird is that!)

    Why aren’t you a wood carver, Bryan? Why don’t you play a violin? Why aren’t you obsessed all year about bow season? I know people like this, and they will never consider cycling in any form.

    I suspect that nearly all of the folks who want to ride bicycles already do it, not the other way around.

    I am the only person I know that doesn’t own a car, or doesn’t have a current driver’s license. Everyone knows what the rules of the road are, even me, and it is no mystery. But somehow folks rebel at the idea that those rules should apply to bicycles. Why is that?

    If you want ride a bicycle without rules, take it off the road and into the woods. There are no rules there.

  16. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    “more rules”? There are no more rules, just the ones that have been around for as long as I’ve been driving.

    I agree with ChipSeal, don’t use the road if you don’t want to use the rules. Those rules are what make things safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

    PM Summer has the right idea: Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

    I’ve found the rules make my ride far more pleasant than I could have ever expected. I think it is easier to obey the rules than not and I’m lazy whenever I get the chance.

  17. Keri
    Keri says:

    “I think it is easier to obey the rules than not and I’m lazy whenever I get the chance.”

    Well said!

    It requires sooooo much less effort to claim my space and follow the rules. The vigilance required for the alternative is exhausting and stressful.

  18. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    The other day I saw a woman cycle up to the Bumby intersection in the Livingston bike lane. She was clearly someone uncomfortable in traffic on a bike, but she was trying to make it work for her. She wore a helmet, a blaze orange safety vest atop her street clothes, and neon yellow long-fingered gloves (in Sept. in Florida!).

    Instead of waiting in the bike lane at the stop bar, she rolled up onto the sidewalk. She seemed confused; as though she was trying to figure out whether to use the crosswalk (which has no ped signal at that intersection) or keep to the roadway. For whatever reason she decided to move back down into the bike lane and continue in a fairly predictable manner.

    But I wonder how she fares at more complicated intersections. Here was someone who clearly wanted to do the right thing; to play by the rules and be safe. But she was unsure and therefor afraid; and her fear made her unpredictable.

    Imagine if she knew that she could drive her bicycle in the same way others drive motor vehicles, and knew that by doing so she could BE safe and FEEL confident.

  19. Laura
    Laura says:

    Love the pics Mighk. I’m loving working downtown after slogging around the metro area for far too long. I agree that it’s really nice seeing so many people riding and such. But dismaying to see how utterly scary some of them are.

    While sidewalk riding may be prohibited by City Ordinance it’s NEVER enforced so it might as well not even be on the books.

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